Music of the universe

9 March 2012

What does the Universe sound like? Find out with Professor Bryan Gaensler.
What does the Universe sound like? Find out with Professor Bryan Gaensler.

By exploring the connections between astronomy and music, Professor Bryan Gaensler, from the University of Sydney, will introduce a chamber music concert celebrating Galileo.

The concert in Sydney on 10 March is one of nine concerts to be held around Australia in a collaboration between CAASTRO - the ARC Centre of Excellence for All-Sky Astrophysics - Musica Viva and Canadian chamber orchestra Tafelmusik.

"I will discuss the unexpected sounds of deep space, including the loudest and deepest notes in the Universe," said Professor Gaensler, who is the director of CAASTRO.

The sounds that fill the Universe are not sounds we are familiar with and are at frequencies far below anything we are capable of hearing. Sounds of the cosmos are not just made up of individual crashes and cracks, but also sustained notes and tones.

"Astronomers' calculations suggest that the pitch of the universe is a throaty bass or baritone rather than a soprano," Professor Gaensler said.

"The deepest note ever detected from an object in the universe comes from a supermassive black hole detected by NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory. Interestingly, the pitch of the sound emanating from this black hole is a B-flat!"

The musical program was devised in 2009 to celebrate the International Year of Astronomy, which marked the 400th anniversary of the first recorded astronomical observations with a telescope by Galileo Galilei.

Carl Vine, Artistic Director of Musica Viva Australia, said, "The concerts combine astronomy with music reflecting the astronomical theme. Tafelmusik will play astronomy-themed music and an actor speaks between each piece explaining the many connections between the music and Galileo and astronomy, including text by Galileo on his astronomical observations," said Mr Vine.

Music from Galileo's time will also be played and the concert will be accompanied by images from the Hubble deep space telescope.

CAASTRO is the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for All-Sky Astrophysics and is a national organisation led by the University of Sydney, in conjunction with the Australian National University, the University of Melbourne, the University of Western Australia, Curtin University and Swinburne University, complemented by a group of world class Australian and international partners.

Event details

What: The Galileo Project: an astronomy presentation 

When: 1.15 to 1.45pm, Saturday 10 March. Concert follows from 2pm

Where: City Recital Hall, Angel Place, Sydney. See map 

Cost: Free

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